January’s Coming … Now’s the Time to Make Sure You Know Your Way Around the Gym

I came to a startling realization as I was going through  my workout last night: there are only three weeks left of 2012. Which means there are about four weeks left until the gym turns into a zoo (and my gym is usually pretty busy throughout the year anyway) and my patience takes a nosedive. I’m pretty sure this apprehension was spurred by the sheer volume of “seriously??” moments I encountered as I made my way through my Monday night workout.

I started out with a quick 5k (well, quick for me – I was done in just over 26:30), and in the short time I was on the treadmill, I saw no less than 10 people climb onto one of the three treadmills nearby emblazoned by “check motor system,” and push a few buttons before realizing that try as they might, that machine wasn’t going to do anything for them. Then I went downstairs to find practically no weights between 10 and 30 lbs.on the racks. Once I finished my weights and made it back upstairs to the stepmill to discover half of the machines out of commission (which really is a rare occurrence in my gym – they’re usually great about fixing machines within a day or two), so more confused looking people. The grand finale? The girl who stood there and just waited for a machine to open for close to 10 minutes, then practically jumped me when I was wiping it down once I was finished (for the record: I may not be too happy on the days that the machine I wanted to use is unavailable, but unless there is someone actively getting off of the machine and I only have to wait 30 seconds or so for them to clean it, I’m finding something else to do).

Which leads me to the point of today’s post … a few oft forgotten tips to make sure that now – and especially come January – you don’t look clueless (or waste your time, or hurt yourself or potentially others):

Know your cardio machines. My gym is typically pretty good about keeping everything up and running. However, sometimes a machine is broken. Not all machines have lights illuminated at all times – but take a look at the ones around you, and you’ll be able to tell if the machine is functional or not. Also – as I already mentioned, I saw this one quite a bit yesterday – some will give you a warning message when they are down (so don’t take five minutes setting yourself up before you realize “check motor system” translates to “this machine is broken.”)

Watch your form. Stand. Up. Straight. Last night, I was on the stepmill next to a girl who slouched so badly, she practically had her head on the machine. There’s a reason this “makes it feel easier”  (though I’m not sure how it doesn’t make your back hurt) – because you are not working as hard as you could be if you were standing up straight, with your core engaged. Laziness gets you nowhere. Fix your form!

Clean up after yourself! I’ve written about this at length before, but here’s the bottom line. There’s a place for everything. Don’t leave your weights wherever you finished using them. Your mother doesn’t work here, so clean up after yourself. And please, please, PLEASE … put them back where they belong. I moved four sets of weights to their correct place on the rack before I was able to return mine on Saturday morning. There’s no excuse. All you have to do is match the number on the weight to the number on the rack.

Be aware of your surroundings … and don’t be a stalker. Two words: personal space. We’re in the calm before the storm that is January right now. Pay attention to the people around you. If you’re close enough that I may hit you with something, you are too close (and, admittedly, I have unintentionally hit and/or kicked people who fail to realize this). And don’t think that if you get close enough to me, I’ll get out of your way. I’m move when I’m done. Same goes for waiting on machines – I practically had a girl breathing down my neck to take my stepmill last night when I was done with it. This has the same effect on me that riding my bumper on the interstate does: it just makes me want to take longer to get out of your way.

Next time you hit the gym, keep these keys in mind. You’ll look like you have a clue, and you’re less likely to irritate the regulars! That said … here’s hoping I can score the treadmill under the fan for my run tonight.